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Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2006 10:05 pm

Flicks in the Lou

St. Louis Film Festival offers succulent celluloid buffet

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If the St. Louis International Film Festival were a restaurant, it would be one of those obscenely diverse superbuffets where you can get moo shu pork and lasagna and moussaka and enchiladas and, of course, soft-serve vanilla-chocolate-twist ice cream for dessert — the kind of dazzling diversity that makes you ask, “Where do I start?”

You could start with legendary documentarian Albert Maysles, who’ll be accepting an award from the fest and screening his recent doc on the artist Christo’s magical orange installation in Central Park. The now-dismantled sculpture and the film are both called The Gates.

You could opt for a spicier dish. Terry Zwigoff, director of such art-house flicks as Ghost World and Crumb, will also hit the festival to accept an award and appear at a screening of his extra-naughty director’s cut of Bad Santa. This version of the picaresque comedy, notes Cinema St. Louis executive director Cliff Froehlich, is “hugely profane and not for the faint-hearted or easily embarrassed.”

Then, too, the new film from director Terry Gilliam, Tideland, is “sufficiently disturbing that it may not receive wide release,” Froehlich says. It concerns a girl sent to live with relatives in a lonely rural area. Her closest companions are a group of Barbie-doll heads with missing bodies.

The festival offers Korean horror (The Host), Japanese anime (Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles), and a touching British film in which Peter O’Toole’s character gains new life by flirting with a girl one-fourth his age (Venus). There are also dozens of short films, a silent feature (Show People) with live organ played by St. Louis fave Stan Kann, and a film about the life of hard-charging former St. Louis Mayor A.J. Cervantes, produced by his son (Mr. Mayor: The Life and Times of A.J. Cervantes).

You probably won’t run into Cameron Diaz or Mark Wahlberg at this film festival, though. That’s just as well, says Froehlich. “We don’t strive to position ourselves as a destination festival like a Telluride or a Sundance,” he says. “However, we are a really excellent regional festival.” In particular, he says, SLIFF’s array of documentaries, indie films, international offerings and shorts is a veritable feast.

The St. Louis International Film Festival runs Thursday-Tuesday, Nov. 9-19, at these St. Louis-area venues: the Tivoli Theatre, the Plaza Frontenac Cinema, the Saint Louis Art Museum, and Webster University. For more information, go to www.cinemastlouis.org.

Byron Kerman is the former calendar editor of the Riverfront Times in St. Louis.

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